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Caerphilly plumbing apprentice’s victory in national competition

A college learner from Caerphilly has won a national contest to be crowned the UK’s top plumbing apprentice. 

 Nineteen-year-old Lewis Blakely, from Caerphilly, has bagged himself the top prize at the grand finals of this year’s HIP UK Heating Apprentice of the Year competition, which aims to find the most talented young tradespeople in the country.

Beating off stiff competition from across the UK, Lewis, who is currently studying a Level 3 plumbing diploma at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Ystrad Mynach campus, came out on top after a close contest held over two days in Cheltenham.

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Putting plumbing skills to the test, the challenging event saw seven winners from each of the regional heats have just 12 hours to install aboiler, shower, toilet, radiator, pipework, and underfloor heating.

Lewis’ triumph saw him take home a cheque of £1,000 as well as a vast collection of professional tools and equipment. Coleg y Cymoedd’s plumbing department also received £1,000 as a result of his success.

Speaking about his victory, Lewis said: “Going from the Welsh heat to the final was a huge step in terms of the difficulty of the challenges and level of ability tested. The tasks were tough and all of the other finalists’ work was exceptional, so winning the final title came as a real shock to me.

“I did put a lot of work in ahead of the competition and I am so glad that it paid off. My tutors and employers were very supportive. Winning the competition has really boosted my confidence and I’m excited to continue my career in plumbing. I’m hoping to become a full-time gas-engineer once I finish my apprenticeship and I think that this award will help me immensely.”

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The talented apprentice landed himself a place at the finals after winning the Welsh regional heat held at Gower College Swansea in February.

With places to enter the competition limited to one student per campus, Lewis also faced strong rivals from within Coleg y Cymoedd to secure his spot at the Welsh stages. Currently, the college trains over 200 plumbing learners at its four campuses in Nantgarw, Aberdare, Rhondda and Ystrad Mynach.

As a Level 3 student and apprentice, Lewis’ time is split between college-based learning at Coleg y Cymoedd and his apprenticeship with Aberdare-based facilities management company, Blue Hill Facilities Management.

Lee Perry, plumbing lecturer at Coleg y Cymoedd: “We are immensely proud of Lewis. Winning the awards is a huge achievement and is testament to his talent, hard-work and dedication to his profession. He has put in a lot of work to prepare for the finals and is a very deserving winner.

“As a college, we have a good track record with the awards. Lewis is our fourth finalist in the last five years, and we have had five learners compete in the last six years, which demonstrates the talent of learners and teaching we have at the college. This is very pleasing as we work hard to demonstrate the highest standard of plumbing to our learners, so it’s amazing to see so many of them thrive.”

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